WELCOME back home, chibok girls. I wonder if we can call them girls any longer. In about three years of captivity inside a forest ruled by Boko Haram’s rag tag army, they have gone through such devastating experiences as would make a woman of any girl. Pure as lily and fresh as daisy, 276 of them were kidnapped on 14 April, 2014 from boarding school by gunmen in the dead of the night, and driven straight into the heart of a sprawling forest called Sambisa. There, all sorts of things imaginable and unimaginable would happen. In the rain seasons of those years, I often wondered as a parent what could be happening to these girls. Whenever lightening and thunder struck, I traveled in spirit from the comfort of my house and bed to the forest. I imagined many of them lying on rotten foliage, filled with the fear of snakes and other dangerous animals and insects. Some could be housed in mud huts or houses. They could be cold and hungry. Every moment, they would remember home, and cry. Worst still, a man dirty in mind and body would come for one. Quite naturally, a girl who had been brought up at home to clean her mouth everyday, who would not allow a boyfriend who was unkept for only one day near her, would detest being forcibly taken by a dirty, savage-looking stranger. But, now, here she is, surrounded by fiendish men who have no respect for personal hygiene, each one seeing her as cheap game. We saw videos of some girls who did not agree that their bodies be violated and who paid for this by being buried alive, standing up, save for their heads which were stoned severely before, finally, they were beheaded! Many girls who thought it was better to be alive saw discretion as the better part of valour, and surrounded their bodies to save their lives. In the process, many of the girls would have been gang raped, and would have become pregnant and even had one or two babies, to worsen matters, to men they cannot identify as the fathers of their children. When we contrast these experiences with the picture of the future unfurling before them only three years before now, these must be harrowing experiences. In this unfurling picture of the world, these girls had been looking forward to passing their University placement examinations, to studying in the University and becoming doctors, lawyers, economists or whatever, to getting married someday and having their own families and to living respectable lives as adults.
A contrasting world confronted them in the forest. Their lives changed. Some would ask: WHY ME? What wrong have I committed to deserve all these? Does God exist? If He does, why would He allow this to happen? Genuinely, some must have lost confidence in Christianity, the religion of their parents, and adopted Islam, the religion of their captors, if this would save their lives. Inside them, a storm would be raging. It would be a storm of two worlds in collision…the world of their dream and the world of their new reality. This storm reminds me of the titles of two poems we studied for literature in the Higher School Certificate (HSC) class of 1969-70 at Igbobi College in Lagos. It was titled SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND OF EXPERIENCE. It came in two sections. The poet, WILLIAM BLAKE, produced and printed the book in two phases, beginning with 19 poems in 1789. These were titled SONGS OF INNOCENCE and captured the joy of protected innocence of childhood in a falling and tormenting world of adulthood. SONGS OF EXPERIENCE came with 26 poems, to form the second section of William Blakes collection of poems and appeared in 1794. It shows how child innocence, peace and joy and praise is often shattered by that falling world of adults which impinges on childhood and becomes known to the child through experience. Sorrow and pain.
Through SONGS OF EXPERIENCE Blake challenged some of the iniquities of his days which included racial discrimination, exploitation of child labour and child sufferance and negative, corrupt and repressive tendencies of the Church. He did not fail to also challenge other wrong doings of the society, especially in the political sector.
Well, our Chibok girls, nay women, have been through it all. It is not surprising that some of them prefer to stay behind in Sambisa forest where they intend to spend the rest of their lives. It is possible they are depressed about what has befallen them and are ashamed to face the world. Nigeria is still a conservative society where almost everyone talks about everyone in negative terms. The President-elect of France, Emmanuel Jean-Michel Macron, married Brigitte Trogneux, 24years his senior. She was his high school teacher in La Providence High School. She was 39 and he was 15 when they first met in her class. He proposed to her. His parents at first objected to the relationship by sending him to another school in Paris. He asked her to divorce her husband, and spoke to her three children that he wanted to marry their mother. Two of her children are older than Macron. But they all agreed he could marry their mother.
I know that, in Nigeria, there are many old women who like to frolic with young men their son’s ages, and young men who do not mind fishing upstream. But, largely, this is done under cover. The same goes for grandpas and teenage girls. In Nigeria, Macron’s mother would fight the relationship on all fronts…including the village and market squares, family circles on both sides, and, even take voodoo sacrifices to road junctions in the nude in the dead of the night. So, what chance does a Sambisa forest Chibok woman have to start her life and feel free in Nigeria. This is a real Song of Experience.
Today is not the day to ask questions about the rightness or wrongness of the fate which befell the Chibok girls. But, today, we may set the stage for that by recognising that God is perfect and that there cannot, therefore, be an accident in creation. If He is perfect and if His perfection permits of no accident, because an accident would be an index of imperfection, we must always look inwards, into our souls and spirits, for the cause and course of any event or experience, sweet or otherwise. We human beings have become spiritually short sighted in the sense that we limit our earthly existence to only one earth life. If we shift the points backwards, we may discover the origins of many of todays event, say, hundreds or thousands of years ago. It is, therefore not an accident when we meet and relate with people we may think we had never known or experience event we may think we do not deserve to experience.
In the interim, we must recognise that the girls who have agreed to step out of Sambisa forest may be crumbled by the forces of society their new identity may attract to them. Afterall, many years after his marriage, the age difference between President-elect Macron and his wife continue to excite the French media.
That is why I proposed elsewhere that these girls be sponsored by the government to go abroad on a rehabilitation programme of about five years after re-union with their families. This should cover cost of their education, for those who wish to further their studies or learn any trade. Some people say this is an unnecessary waste of scarce funds. I doubt if they would think so if their daughters are involved. I have no daughter but I feel their experience to the bone marrow. If the government bows to these hawks, can private Nigerians not sponsor this project?
I imagine that a massive campaign can yield a harvest of about 500,000 Nigerians who, paying, say, #500 every month can muster #250 million for this project. The truth, unfortunately, is that the Nigerian society has become lame. It doesn’t fight for anything, anymore. In my days as a University student in the 1970s, students would have stormed the houses in which large sums of money has been stored away to the detriment of the economy. Maybe, the style of society has changed from physical activism to fighting in words and thought forms. Maybe not. My neighbour who lives in England says poor people in the United Kingdom always freed themselves from the yoke of the rich through activism. For example, a law was passed in 1951 (the footh path law) which limits the size of land the rich can acquire in certain areas. The rich had become so rich there was hardly any limit to their reach in society. For example, one may acquire such vast hectrages of land that the poor had no short cuts routes from one part of a neighbourhood to another. Geometry teaches that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. Imagine a triangle with points A, B and C with median landmarks between A and B at AB, and A and C at AC.
In pre-footh path law days, a man walking from point AB to point AC would have to walk from point AB to A and from A to AC or from AB to B and B to C and then C to AC. But with the footh path law, owners of large tracts of land became legally obliged to create footh paths in large tracts such that pedestrians could cut short their Israelite’s Journey with, for example, straight line movement from AB to AC.
In our midst, Chibok girls may become depressed, apathetic, sorrowful, angry, fearful, recluses and a wasted people. They, like their parents, guardians and friends, should be aware of the SONGS OF EXPERIENCE the society will be singing all around them, and kit themselves up for battle. They will need psychologists to firm up their minds, and nutrition to make their brains and nerves impregnable by pressure from the SONGS OF EXPERIENCE.
If, inwardly, one is unable to equalise the pressure of intruding forces and repel them, depression of the soul or spirit which many people call the mind may occur. And depression may lead to a host of other problems. Apathy is one of them. It is linked to insufficiency of a neurotransmitter in the brain called DOPAMINE which can be obtained from food sources such as Noni juice or food supplements such as MOOD SUPPORT or BEHAVIOUR BALANCE. Dopamine helps us to be happy, active, forward looking and stable. As the spirit is repressed in a deficiency state of dopamine, it feels like doing nothing. It is like losing interest not only in the surroundings but in life and living. The challenged person relapses into obsessive eating and sleep. Obsessive eating comes from damage to or alteration of the chemistry of cells in the brain which advise us that our system is full of food, and we do not need to pump more food into it. This situation may arise from the infusion of negative energy into the cells. Depression and apathy lead to sorrow, hate, irritability, anger and the likes of them. These emotions, generated in the spirit, link up to power centers of their kinds in the world unseen and unfelt with the five physical senses. Having linked up, the challenged person becomes like an electrical appliance connected to the mains, imbued, in the case of a human being, with negative energy. Negative energy chases away or obstructs the inflow of positive energy. Negative energy represses the immune system, cellular functions and health and supports proliferation of germs. Thus, depression and apathy may cause hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, conditions in which the thyroid gland underfunctions or overworks. Underfunctioning leads to sleepiness, indigestion, weight gains, low blood pressure, goitre and about 200 diseases linked with hypothyroidism, including chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, a condition of pain in the muscles, tendons, bone and surrounding tissues. Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, literally burns up the body, triggering such conditions as hyperactivity, rapid heart beats (tachycardia) or palpitations, leaness, excessive sweating under high-tension metabolism and even bulgy eyeballs (Graves disease).
Obsessive eating and weight gains can be checked with high fiber foods. I have observed it well checked with herbs such as Garcinia cambogia. Traditionally, this fruit is used to make meals more filling, reduce desire to over-eat and block fats being made in the body. One tablet of this fruit taken one to three times daily help to reduce food intake to about once or twice a day. With this goes the possibility of checking high blood cholesterol and fatty liver. This is a dangerous condition in which the liver is filled with fats that it can hardly function well. Fats easily become rotten in the body in the absence of antioxidants active in the fat medium. Fats which rot in the liver may predispose it to infections, hardening (cirrhosis) and even cancer. There are many other fat burners available to us. Some of these are Lecithin, Choline and Inositol, Apple cider vinegar, Garlic et.c.
In some depressed people, sleep can become an issue. They may lack melatonin, the neuro-transmitter the brain converts to Serotonin, which gets us to sleep. Melatonin supplementation in the diet may not help people who have enough of it but may not be able to convert it to serotonin. Every insomniac has to find out the cause of his or her condition and address it. Calcium and Magnesium help some cases. So do Lecithin, Omega-3 oil (DHA), GABA and herbs such as vervain, valerian root, hops, lettuce et.c.
Apathy is the nut to crack in depression. The victim is like a seed planted in the soil which fails to grow. The seed kernel is blessed with nutrients. In the soil, friction of all sorts is meant to make it break through its protective coats, feed itself from its food reserve, grow roots to anchor itself in the soil, and find food, when the food reserve is exhausted, push pebbles, and soil aside and rise above the soil. This process is interesting. It should make us wonder about the concept of gravity. Science believes it is a force in the middle of the earth which pulls us down, preventing us from flying off into space. A counter opinion is that there is a force above which pushes everything down to its level of homogeneity. Thus, a seed that does not wish to grow becomes resident in the soil and decays there. That which expresses longing to live is helped up, to sprout, flower, fruit and fulfil the purpose of its existence. Man is like the seed. His kernel is the human spirit which is resident in the physical human body. The spirit is endowed with abilities which are meant to sprout flower and fruit so that the spirit can fulfil the purpose of its existence. If the spirit strives to live, it is helped upwards to regions of Life commensurate with the level or nature of its value or inner worth. That is why it is said that heaven helps those who help themselves. In apathy, the spirit is walled up, becomes gradually cold and lifeless, degenerates and rapidly approaches the end of its earth-life. If it is not helped, its blood radiations may so weaken that it may be possessed by earth-bound disembodied souls, often the source of auto-suggestions and suicide thoughts.
This should not be the fate of Chibok girls. They remind me of the pathetic situation of two Moroccan girls in the 1970s or 80s. They were born in England and were British citizens. There parents did not want them to marry outside Morocco. So, they tricked their daughters home on a false holiday to Morocco. The girls were happy to know their father land and to meet their relations. Their parents disappeared overnight to England, after taken away from them their British passport. The local Chief came for them and handed them over to husbands agreed with their parents. It took about three years for British reporter searching for British citizens abducted in Morocco to discover these girls in a mountain range settlement. An Anglo-Moroccan diplomatic row broke out. Morocco agreed to release the girls but insisted on keeping their children, two on each side who were Moroccans. The girls could not abandon their children in Morocco and stuck to their captivity and damage dream. It is unlikely that Chibok girls will give up their children who would grow up someday also stigmatized like their mothers. We can all help in thought and deed to free the freed Chibok girls from the yolk of apathy.